Tuesday 27 November 2012

An Ur-Text about violence

We think we understand the world

We think we can control it
Why does he want it? This is never explained.
every painful failure of my life
The 'good' rabbit hides. He surrenders to violence and hides. He didn't even get his own carrot in the first place. His mother gave it to him. Goodness is weakness it seems.
and then, like the wrath of an indifferent god..

This is a man with a gun. This is a man with a gun. This is a man with a gun.

Beatrix Potter understands violence too well.

But what is left after an act of violence?How can we know what happened? War destroys memory as well as flesh.

The 'bad' rabbit escapes with minor mutilation. The good rabbit still gets nothing. The hunter, who wanted a rabbit, gets a carrot.

Thursday 22 November 2012


I am meant to be thinking, and writing about caves. Instead I found myself thinking about this.


Even the caves die. They were made by life and time. Limestone is a corpse-stone compressed from the empty shells of another ages brightly-lit life.

If you stand on Limestone and imagine, a handful of millions of years ago, looking up from the same place, you will see light. The old and faintly moving light hanging in the darkness, held in momentary shards by waves rolling a mile above your head. You will be standing in a drizzle of the tiny dead, their calcite skeletons pattering down.

Those bodies turn to rock. The rock folds in the earth and churns to hills. The rain falls on the hills and eats the rock. The caves are born. But rain alone is not enough, there must be life. Growing things on the surface of the earth to lend the rain it's teeth. Carbonic acid cuts the caves.

As the land heaves up and water seeks its home the caves remain. They fill with air and darkness. Gravity, water, air and time paint the caves in three dimensions. Wild speleothems crackle into being, stalagtites, mites, richly banded flowstone, pearls of bone, crystals and gypsum flowers, the mad capillary curls of helictites.

This all takes long enough for life to change its form. New breeds and creatures, pale, transparent and sinuous. Somewhere a salamander closes its eyes for the last time. It's children will never hold the language of light.

The stone is slowly dying. It came from life, it returns to life, it's erosion and destruction cannot be stopped. In-between the caves are allowed to exist as a strange cradle for forms that have no other place. This process, invisible to us, locks the caves in time. In the whole history of the earth, they could only exist now. We think we see eternal stone, but this is just a blade of time, florescent-flicker-fast.


Not many people build their empires around a spine of mountains. Rivers are a more popular choice. The Inca perhaps.

When the Ghorids built their Turquoise Mountain, the city made to rule the plains, they made it from the bricks and blood of other peoples.

The Ghorid chieftain then forced the inhabitants of Ghanzi to carry every mud brick of their city on their backs up to the mountains of Ghor. There they executed the captives and mixed their blood with mud to make more bricks for their highland capital the Turquoise Mountain.”

The Ghorids built towers and left relics in the rock, carefully placed and held in space between the pillars of the earth.

The domes were positioned in the centre of a symmetrical plateau, which was lower than the western approach ridge. From above, they had no silhouette and from the bottom of the slope they were invisible. Only for a moment, halfway down the slope, did they rise above the skyline. They were then lost again until the summit of the final climb when the curved roof slowly reappeared framed by the mountain range beyond, with the shape of the arches mimicking the shape of the peaks.”

...The Ghorids seemed to have shared this delight in the shape and colour of rock. Unlike the Seljuks or the Mongols, they were not nomads from the steppes but instead, like the Phrygians, Medians and Persians, people who had lived for centuries among their mountains. …. A Pride reflected in the Ghorids use of the epithet Malik-I-Jabal, or King of the Mountains, as their royal title.”

The Ghorids run into a man burning his way through history. The Turquoise Mountain blinks from memory. Eventually, with the long passage of years, the descendants of this man, possessing both luxury and force, make themselves a meal for time. Time feasts on them.

A few centuries after that Rory Stewart decides he needs to walk through the mountains of Afghanistan. He thinks he needs to go on foot and never ride a wheel. In the valley of Jam he finds the tower of the Ghorids, from the top of the tower he sees the trenches ringing the valley sides. The villagers have found the Turquoise Mountain again. They are hacking trenches into the bare earth, down through the blacked roof beams burned by Genghis Khan, and tearing out every artefact they can find. The relics can sell for one or two dollars each. The people need the money, the valley grass won't feed a goat. There is no government but the dead empire of the Ghorids feeds the people of Jam as they send it into the darkness for a second time.


The islands of the Pacific were that last parts of the earth to be touched by the settlement of man. The navigators that took us from Asia to Hawaii and Easter Island did so without charts, mathematics, sextants, compass or metal instruments. They could not write.

They divided the sky with the stars. They could read the geometry of the criss-crossing swells and feel the knots of water when multiple swells combined. They could read the tightness of the water and judge the direction of the current. Read atmospheric pressure from the shapes and colours of clouds. They knew the birds, fishes, whales and reefs of each island, a fluid but regular biological cartography.

They could read nature but they could not read. They passed it on in talk. 'Kapesani Lemetau', the talk of the sea, by performance and by song. Not separate from the culture but part of it, weaved together at every level. Not a storehouse of knowledge but an endless flow of understanding encoded in living experience. Navigation, Theology, Social Code, Art and Political Structure all combined in one.

Then that culture met this one. It did not seem likely to survive. This mad collision of worlds is still going on. We are like an insect, caught in flight in the background footage of a car crash. Only visible when the speed is slowed. Right now people are riding the wave of cultural impact, hurriedly transforming the talk of the sea into something that can survive the storm of western culture.

The Simurgh lays it's egg in flight. The egg hatches as it falls and the chick learns to fly before it hits the ground.

The plankton-dust under the keel of the canoe is falling to the abyss, steeling itself for the long journey until it can form a crag or bound the edges of a cave.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Lazarus Taxon

"The first intense and continuous scientific study of a cave animal was of a cave salamander, Proteus anguinus. It was originally identified as a "dragon's larva" by Janez Vajkard Valvasor in 1689."

 "Local villagers had long believed that a dragon living in a cave at the source of the river Bella caused periodic floods by opening sluice gates when its living quarters were threatened by rising water."

Elvis taxon


 "A third trip was rewarded with the discovery of a transparent shrimp, visible only because of the shadow it cast on the floor of the shallow pool"

 Guacharo means 'one who cries and laments'

They sound insane. It's because they navigate by echolocation.
Oilbird chicks are so oily that you can knock them out of their nest, cut them open and pretty much use them to fill a lantern. 
The Indians of Northern South America thought that the caves the birds lived in were the eternal resting places of ancestral human spirits. "Going to the gaucharos" means "to die".

"The ammonia fumes are so strong that the fur of some bats is bleached a pale brown. There is a continuous rain of urine and feces and even dead and dying bats, most of them too young to fly. Still more disturbing are a fine steady rain of mites from the rooting bats and the swarms of blind flies that live as bat parasites. The surface of the guano stirs with life. wherever you look, insects are feeding on the carcasses of young bats. Thousands of bat skeletons, picked clean to the last shred of flesh, lie all about."  - Charles Mohr and Thomas Paulson

 And these happy glow worms?

  Are hunting for prey




Tuesday 13 November 2012

Not In Petty Gods

Back at the end of 2011 I sent a submission for James Maliszewski's 'Petty Gods'. I thought I was going to be int it, but now apparently am not. So here is the guy I made anyway.

I must be memory-obsessed

The God of Lost Chapters

Some books are so long, and so boring, that almost no-one finished them.

During the reading of a an important but very long and turgid book, the mind of the reader will abruptly enter an unaware fugue-state. It is at this moment that the god of lost chapters makes his appearance.

Say half-way through Das Kapital or the Bible, your head begins to nod, your eyes are open but in fact you are mildly unconscious. The God of Lost chapters will fill your mind with the memory of the chapter you should have read. After a few moments you wake up again. You never realise you passed out. You have the memory of reading the book and the book is in your hands so your must have read it. You continue.

But he never ever gets it exactly right.

This god is the reason people who spend their lives reading very long books always disagree about the exact meaning of what they have read. They remember reading different things. His powers are mild, almost non-existent, but he has probably started a few wars. And a few crusades.

Name: Moorealeth

Symbol: A broken circle

Alignment: Neutral

Movement: Human

Armor Class: Standard unarmoured

Hit Points (Hit Dice): Random, d20 HD, reroll every encounter, he forgets how divine he is.

Attacks: Probably just a normal guy with bare hands. But if he touches you, you don't know why you're there. Twice and you don't know who he is. Three times and you don't know who you are.

Damage: Low. 1D6?

Save: High. he is a godlet after all.

Morale: Fights and forgets why he's fighting. Runs away and forgets why he's running.

Hoard Class: Like treasure? Books. Expensive, valuable beautiful books of spells and strange knowledge. All slightly wrong. None of them work. You could probably prise the gems off the front or sell them for the dragonskin bindings. If you try to sell them to anyone who knows what they are  doing they are going read them, wait a while, read them again, and get very pissed off.

XP: 1500? But if anyone doesn't remember why they were fighting at the end then they don't get any.

If a PC ever tries to hit Moorealeth and misses, they forget why they were trying to hit him in the first place. Another member of the party within earshot must spend one round explaining to them why they are fighting and what is going on. If everyone forgets and there is no-one to remind them then the encounter is over. Moorealth also forgets.

Moorealeth looks like a distracted bearded man wearing tattered grey robes. He knows everything but can never relate it correctly. He is unaware of this. He is eager to help anyone who passes by. His assistance is always slightly wrong. if you ask him where the Goblin City is he will give your the wrong place, or the wrong spelling. Or tell you it is a city of Gnolls, or say that the name 'Goblin City' is based on a misspelling of an ancient tribal term and actually it's a mountain, or an oasis. Or he will get it exactly right but transpose the co-ordinates so you end up on the wrong side of the globe, exactly opposite the goblin city. Or he will send you to 'Roblin City'.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Art-Deco Shoggoth

Nearly done with basic geology, moving on to underground life next. The following is just the highlights of my notes so far, to convince people I haven't been dicking around.

"Geology acts as a kind of collective unconscious for the world, a deep control beneath the oceans and continents." (Literalize?
Jungsworld deep below the surface?)

VOG – Acid mist – water on recent lava produces sulphur-enriched fog called VOG.

Sulphur crystals form tiny perfect prisms.

Tears Of Pele – tiny, black, drop shaped stones. (Tears of the goddess, she likes handsome youths, poss swap CHA and STR to gain heat resistance.)

Hair Of Pele – Glass filiments drawn out as the gasses speed from lava. Like spun suger but brittle, almost golden sheen.


the inner earth is green too, but a rich gren such as is seen on the leaves of climbing plants in the rain forest.”


Mad Old ideas about nature of the changing earth surprisingly useful in the context of a fantasy world.

An earth cooling and shrinking
An earth growing from within.
Kirchner – mountains are bones of the earth, a skeleton for the planet.
Beumont – fault lines shaped by pentagons discovered from the connections of great circles.

RADIOLARIANS – glassy silaca spheres or nets, delicate as lace. (huge hyper-adaptive Radiolarians like beautiful art-deco shoggoths, but terrestrial not alien)

We must be humble, we are so easily baffled by appearances
And do not realise that the stones are one with the stars
It makes no difference to them whether they are high or low
Mountain peak or ocean floor, palace or pigsty
There are plenty of ruined building in the world, but no ruined stones.”
-Hugh MacDiarmid 'On a Raised Beach'

Cockroaches can sense rockfalls before they happen and are valued by miners (obvious cockroach god for drow)

"Dark nor light
the region, nor bright nor sombre wholly
A dusky empire and its diadems,
One faint, eternal eventide of gems."
-Keats Endymon

Large, flat prismatic feldspars float in a matrix of finer dark grained basalt. As if bold white brush strokes have been added to the faces of the sculptures”

(theoretical column, 3 kinds of meaning encoded in one artefact, religious relation of elder gods which tells their story, changes in the nature of the carving and the inference of the story tell the changing attitudes of the culture that carved the column over hundreds of years, geological strata tell story of deep time, actually influenced by the elder gods told of in the myth, for instance, in a fantasy world, there will be 'Cthulhu Strata. Each kind of encoded meaning gives clues to the other.)

A lava cavity or air bubble is called a 'Vug'

Granite preserves culture but limits detail in sculpture. Artist must consider essence of form. (Poss views on what 'ancient' art looks like formed more by the materials that carry it than we suppose? Lots of fancy shit we never see because it decayed on weak materials?)

FORTEY: Oh, well Lapworth was a brilliant man who solved the problem of a structure in the northwest highlands of Scotland called the Moine Thrust. Lapworth realized – for very good evidence, because he was a marvelous field man – that the Moine Thrust was a layer where one enormous load of rocks was pushed bodily over another layer of rocks. Older probably over younger. But many, many people disagreed with this; they wanted the rocks, as it were, to be piled up simply in the right order. And Lapworth suffered mentally tremendously as he fought out this controversy, to the extent that he used to dream or have nightmares about being crushed under what he called the great Earth engine. "

"The mantle contains 'blobs' of a different composition on the scale of a few kilometers, which may be the last remains of subducted lithosphere slabs." - remnants of falled continents, solid outposts of the high-pressure silicone beings, at war with the frost giants beneath the earth where they were driven by the gods. Combat zone is inhabitable by hmans but also a post-war-berlin style intelligence nightmare crossed with a titanic battlefield.

Thursday 1 November 2012

A Possible Index

I have a shitload of books to read so this is going to take a while. Will update you as it goes.

It might end up looking something like this. Probably not in this order. (or nothing like this)

1 Grow Your Own Planet with the various areas labelled. Map left blank and tools and random tables given for gms and players to genreate a fiction tectonic history of their planet, should they wish to. So they can map out the general geography and get a clear idea of where they could go. Will leave the names the same as tribute to the scientists and geologists who discovered them but the meaning will change. So there should always be a Mohorovičić discontinuity. But Mohorovičić might be the explorer who discovered the edge of hell, or the stellar dragon that curls within the earth, or the Liche that trapped the god that powers the magma flows.

2 corpse of a river in the body of the sea. Karst diagram, most likely entrances. How Karst works, what it's like.

3 life without light extremophile and fungal personalities, treasures, magic, politics. Cracked and ancient evolutionary paths. Ancient genetics from the dawn of life. Forgotten Phylum.

4 his body blocked the route failures, successes, famous deaths and survivals, wealth, insanity. Legends to inspire and drive the explorer.

5 the vampire court/and others low level adventure area/linked areas. Near the surface so some relation to surface ways. Last light from the sun reflected by ancient lenses through lava tubes to dim dawn-gloom cave. Only way to kill vampires in the underdark. Also run by vampires, justice for blood, last safe space before you reach the middle reaches.

6 the fungal underground railroad Either hunt or protect the weird/innocent fungal life forms for fun and profit. Also a beastary of fungal life.

7 the hive of glass extremophile knowledge storehouse. Panopticon of the Underdark. Dangerous, corrupting. Dungeon of smokey volcanic glass where you can see the whole thing from any point, but nothing is as it seems..

8 classic climbs table/diagram of classic spelunking problems for educational purposes. Like that one-page illustration from a D&D book somewhere that shows someone falling and shows the falling damage from each height as well. May also include a kind of table/guide showing the different levels of climbing ability shown by humans so far, fading slightly into the superhuman, so DM's can convert all the different ways climbing works.

9 Cave Crawl Rules – fuck knows how I'm going to do this. Probably DEX for small scale, CON for large. Also creating larger cave systems

10 the shape of the space small scale immediate/tactical cave generator.

11 whispers in the dark rules for oral recitation and direction-riddles. Sensory information?

12 black market item costs, diagram to help map changes in what costs what going up and down. Some materials raise in price as you go down and visa versa. One page diagram/illustration?

13 Eigengrau. the impossiblity of darkness the eye can't see real darkness without light kinds of darkness, kinds of light, sight generally.

14 breakdown falling apart mentally and physically. Maybe also a reading list. Including Hallucination table never tell players if you are rolling on this or the encounter table.

15 nobles of the deep Random table for generating rivers, water features, water generally.

16 extremophile/fungal treasures and tools

17 people you meet and why they want to kill you npc's (is there such a thing underground?

18 maps and guides

19 encounters 2 part encounter table, geographical and animate

20 I search the body

21 dying in the dark what happens when the lights go out or (they search your body)

22 speliothaumaturgy

23 we happened to meet..

24 larger cave system equivalent to street system.

Still need – equipment/light breakdowns